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Occupational Health

Most workplaces are likely to contain at least one substance that may present a risk to the health of the user:

  • Substances
  • Physical Agents
  • Biological Agents

Assessing the risk:

You should start by identifying all the potentially hazardous substances that are in use. Then the hazards posed to your employees need to be identified. Only then can the risks be assessed. Although information on hazards can be obtained from the supplier the particular manner in which your employees will use the product often determines the risk.

What to do:

  1. List the substances
  2. Identify the hazards
  3. Assess the risks
  4. Consider how you can reduce your risk – identify controls
  5. Implement controls
  6. Supply information to employees and update their training

The best methods of reducing the risk are to:

  • Stop using the substance and/or replace it with a less hazardous material e.g. is it necessary to use harsh cleaning materials?
  • Or look for alternatives: If the hazard arises from dusty materials see if the product can be purchased in a pellet or liquid form.
  • Enclose equipment in order to fully contain the dust or fumes and draw them away from the worker through local exhaust ventilation. Engineering controls such as ventilation are to be preferred before employees are given personal protective equipment such as respirators.

Please note - Engineering controls such as ventilation are should be used before employees are given personal protective equipment such as respirators.


Your employees could be exposed to health risks from liquids, dusts and fumes that can enter the body through being breathed in, coming in to contact with the skin or more rarely through being swallowed.

The results of such exposure can range from dermatitis through skin contact with solvents or harsh cleaning materials to lung diseases, such as asthma. Controlling these risks arising from the use of potentially hazardous substances is a matter that requires your careful management.

Physical Agents

There is also a risk of ill health from exposure to what are known as physical agents such as noise, vibration or radiation. Exposure to excessive noise can result in occupational deafness whilst use of vibrating tools such as road breakers, pneumatic chipping guns and hand held grinders can result in a disabling condition of the hands known as vibration white finger.

Biological Agents

There is also a risk of ill health from exposure to biological agents for example following exposure to infected animals, for example anthrax. Other diseases of occupational origin include infections acquired from patients and medical procedures or during research work such as hepatitis and smallpox. Cooling towers can become infected with Legionella bacteria giving rise to Legionnaires Disease and contact with rat’s urine can give rise to Weil’s Disease.

But the causes are well known and good controls generally mean the incidence is low. But some animal caused diseases are still encountered such as eColi.

Next Steps

  • Source discounted products, available to Aviva insured customers and brokers, via our Specialist Partners - click here to find out more about the savings you could make
  • Call our Risk Helpline on 0345 366 66 66
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  • View our Tools and Templates

Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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